When I was growing up, my dad worked for the Chicago Motor Club selling automobile insurance. The Chicago Motor Club was connected to the American Automobile Association (AAA still referred to as the Triple A today) and for those of you who have been members of AAA prior to the computer age and Mapquest and Google Maps, you might remember going into a AAA office and retrieving a “Triptik” for a cross-country drive. The women in my dad’s office would, by hand, go through the hundreds of individual pages and compile the “Triptiks” upon request. Each roughly 4” x 9” page contained the information for the next leg of the trip, and on the back it would have a few paragraphs that described the places of interest along the way. The “Triptik” was an ordered, practical, step-by-step way of making a long journey very easy to handle, giving a person the instructions for every leg of the journey. At first I thought they were pretty interesting, but after a while I realized that they offered a very narrow view of the journey. When I went on a trip, I wanted the Rand McNally Atlas. I wanted the BIG picture. I wanted to choose my own route and be able to explore the side roads.
Growing up, I loved the thought of going to a new place, moving to a new house, traveling to a distant state; all for the adventure and new opportunities that were presented. In our current house, we have old maps on the walls: historical school maps that show passages taken by explorers, trade routes, Native American trails, westward expansion routes across the country. I can sit and look at those maps for long periods of time, imagining myself as one of the explorers on the paths that are marked. Thinking about what it must have been like learning the routes for the first time, I become lost in the exploration just as if I was with them on the journey.
“Triptiks,” or in today’s terms, a Google Maps printout, can be really handy thing if you simply want to get from point A to point B, but there is no room for exploring or discovering one’s own path, and certainly not much opportunity to discover something totally new in the process. The Christian church I grew up in provided a “Triptik” to heaven. A specific path was laid out, complete with instructions on how to get from the beginning of each page to the end, and what page came next in the process. Occasionally there were interesting side notes from people who’d been on the journey before (John Calvin’s assessment among them), but they were offered in a way that expressed some sense that if you veered off the edge of the page, you would end up in Satan’s Den for all eternity.
I still know ministers, colleagues whom I consider to be friends, who try to provide the “Triptik” to every young person growing up. Some do it that way because they know no other, some because it is easy, and some because they fear the unknown edges of the maps. Here at Hope Church we try to provide people of all ages with an Atlas and the freedom to dream and explore and discover the world. Are you interested in that kind of a journey?
I think I will go daydream with a map.